Nov. 8, 2012
Definition: “Aggression is any form of behaviour directed toward the goal of harming or injuring another
living being who is motivated to avoid such treatment.” (Baron & Richardson, 1994)
- Defined not just by behaviour but also by intention
- The attention of harming is considered to be an aggressive component (has to happen within at
least two people, thus is a social event – a victim and an aggressor)
- The victim has to consider the act or intention as UNWANTED. They need to want to avoid it. If
they instead are seeking negative behaviour, then we don’t call it aggression.
Is this Aggression?
- A patient winces in pain as the dentist works on his root canal (not aggression b/c pain is not
- A man shouts obscenities and gives the finger to another driver who cut him off (aggression)
- A young child grabs a toy from a playmate who starts to cry (depends)
- The hockey player deftly trips the player from the opposing team as he skates nearby
- A customer burns her hand on the hot dish that the server has just placed before in the
- A father slaps his son’s face for coming in past curfew again (aggression)
Nature vs. Nurture
- Aggression is in our nature
- Aggression is in our nurture
o “A false debate!”; the extent to which each of these plays a role varies
Aggression is Inborn
- Instinct theories:
o Aggressive instinct (McDougall, 1908)
We can talk about human instinct. We categorize human instincts into 16 parts.
(ex. Instinct to be curious, thus we engage in certain behaviour to seek
information). Argues we are instinctively aggressive. Behaviour can be explained
by our instincts, but does not explain WHY we have these instincts. This isn’t
really a scientific approach because his thoughts are not based on research.
o Death instinct, “Thanatos” (Freud, 1930)
Instinct for life and pro-creation, as well as death. Argues that every person has
a need for pro-creation but also a need for destruction. Sometimes destruction is turned inward towards ourselves. Sometimes we turn this aggression outwards
and become aggressive towards other people. Says aggressive instinct is pretty
simple to love instinct.
- Hydraulic theory
o Unexpressed emotions build up pressure which must be expressed to relieve that
If you don’t let something drain out, the container might explode. Same thing
with aggression; if we don’t let it come out in ways that are considered
acceptable, then people develop a psychological disorder (they engages in
maladaptive behaviours). We have to let these aggressive tendencies come out.
Both of these perspectives are not based on empirical studies
Studies on Aggression
- Observation of and experimentation with species other than humans
o Zing Yang Kuo’s (1961) experiment: raising a kitten in the same cage with a rat
Cats instinctively chase rats. If you raise them both together, the kitten will not
chase the rat. Aggressive instinct can clearly be put under control.
o Eibl-Eibesfeldt’s (1963) experiment: raising rats in isolation
What happens when a new rat is introduced to the rats cage after the rat has
been raised in isolation? Does the rat attack the other rat? Yes. Why? Is uses
same attacking behaviour that is found in other rats. Therefore, aggression is
instinctive because we find the same behaviour. In order for aggression to be
instinctive, aggression should come from within NOT environment (ex. New rat
being introduced) – other psychologists argue this point.
o Konard Lorenz’s (1966) observation of the behaviours of cichlids, highly aggressive fish
Aggression IS instinct.
Studied cichlids in their natural environment. In natural environment male
cichlids attack other male fish. Don’t attack female fish or female cichlids. What
happens if move other fish and leave only male and female cichlids from their
environment? Eventually these male cichlids attack other male cichlids! They
used to ignore these male cichlids and now attack their own territory. Another
experiment: remove male cichlids from environment and only leave one male
cichlid, and all the rest are female cichlids. The male cichlids started attacking
the female cichlids. Under these conditions, the aggressive behaviour comes
from within, without having stimuli from environment.
Aggression is Inborn
- Evolutionary perspective of aggression:
o Human warfare originated in attempts to obtain valuable resources usually over food, land, mates, oil, anything that is scarce. Most of these
resources ensure the survival of people. If you do not have access to these
resources, survival is gone!
o Emphasizing genetic survival
Men want to pass on their genes, they look for people who can bear a child,
(young attractive [hip/waist ratio] women), if a woman is healthy (skin).
Women look for a man who has money and is smart. (a man who can provide)
o Gender differences in patterns of mate selection
Study of sexual jealousy (Safdar & Voracek, 2001).
Men and women different in terms of jealousy???
Asked participants if the person they liked was with someone how that
would make them feel?
Study of Jealousy
- Girls care more about partner developing deep attachment for someone else
- Guys care more about partner having passionate sex with someone else
- For women, there is no doubt that they are the mother. For men, it can be questionable.
o Thus more stressful for men when females have sex with someone else
o In class, 65% of females and 65% of males differed (65% of females emotional
attachment, 65% of males sex with someone else)
Aggression is Inborn
- Biochemical and neural influences on aggression: